Majority of British people say electronic balloting to vote for strikes is appropriate

6 Jan 2016 11:39 AM

The majority of the British people say that the use of electronic balloting to vote for industrial action is appropriate, according to a poll commissioned from YouGov and published by the TUC today (Wednesday) ahead of the second reading of the Trade Union Bill in the House of Lords next week.

More than one in two (53%) people say voting for strike action electronically through a secure, dedicated website is appropriate, with only one in five (20%) saying it is inappropriate for unions to be able to do this.

An almost identical split think that electronic balloting should be used when voting for political party leadership elections, with 53% in favour and 22% against.

However, while political parties can use online voting for their own elections, the government refuses to let unions ballot for industrial action in this way. Instead unions must send a postal ballot to every member at their home address, and members can only vote by completing their ballot and posting it back. This process is expensive, time-consuming and does little to boost participation, says the TUC.

The TUC believes allowing union members to use smart phones and computers to engage in voting would raise turnouts and give more workers a clear say.

Many organisations currently use secure online voting. Zac Goldsmith – the Conservative candidate for London Mayor – was selected in this manner, and blue chip companies use online voting to let shareholders vote in corporate ballots.

Not only do more than half of the British public (and 47% of current Conservative voters) think that electronic voting is appropriate for industrial action ballots, more than one in four (29%) actually think that it is already legal for unions to be using electronic balloting to vote for strikes.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“If the government really cared about raising democratic participation then it would allow unions to use the same modern voting methods the Conservative Party uses, and give working people the right to vote securely and secretly online, and in the workplace. What’s sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander.

“The Electoral Reform Society confirms that electronic voting is just as safe as postal balloting, and it is used by a number of employers and organisations. This includes political parties – as we have seen in the recent selection ballot for the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London.

“But let’s be clear, the government’s Trade Union Bill is not about improving industrial relations. Ministers simply want to undermine the basic right to strike and make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work. The government should be engaging positively with workers and their representatives, not making their lives harder.”


  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,711 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22 and 23 December 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all online adults in Great Britain (aged 18+). YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council.
  • The second reading of the Trade Union Bill will be in the House of Lords on Monday (11 January). The TUC is opposed to the entire Bill and is calling on the government to allow unions to use secure online and workplace balloting.
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group uses online voting to elect employee reps to their ‘UK Employee Consultative Body’, EE ran its employee rep election online, Britvic Soft Drinks ran its employee Involvement Forum election online and Shell’s employee forum election was an online vote. Business organisations also use online votes. For example, the Federation of Small Businesses held online ballots for its AGM and Directors’ elections.